Twins 6, Indians 2
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Torii Hunter attributed his big game to luck. His manager knows better.
“Tonight, I will be at the casino—I’m all in,” Hunter said after going 5-for-5.
Hunter raised his average 20 points to .258 with his career high for hits, matched his career best with six RBIs and showed signs that he’s putting a slow start behind him.
“He’s been out here early working on just trying to get better, and tonight it paid off,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “If we can get him on a roll, we can score a lot of runs.”
Hunter put the Twins ahead 4-2 in the third inning with a grand slam to left off Cliff Lee, the fourth of his career. Hunter just missed a home run in his next at-bat when he doubled high off the wall in right field.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth, Hunter got a gift double and two RBIs when shortstop Jhonny Peralta and left fielder Jody Gerut had trouble communicating going after his towering flyball. Pinch-runner Nick Punto and Lew Ford scored to give Minnesota a 6-2 lead.
“Jhonny thought I called it,” Gerut said. “Crowd noise can be a problem. This place gets pretty loud.”
It got even louder in the eighth, when the crowd gave Hunter a standing ovation after he capped his night with a single.
“I was just trying to make contact, and I got a base hit,” Hunter said. “(The ovation) was pretty great. They recognized that was a career high for me.”
Brad Radke (5-4) pitched seven strong innings to get the victory. He allowed two earned runs and six hits with no walks and six strikeouts. J.C. Romero and Jesse Crain each pitched a scoreless inning to close the game.
“Radke pitched like Radke pitches,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “He expanded the zone from left to right and was able to take advantage of that. He was tough on our guys.”
The last time Radke faced the Indians in the Metrodome he held them to three hits in a 9-0 complete-game victory on May 5. That scoreless streak against Cleveland didn’t last much longer, as Ben Broussard hit a two-out, two-run homer in the first inning to put the Indians up 2-0.
But a key miscue in the field set up the Twins rally in the third. With two on and one out, Justin Morneau hit a sharp grounder to first. Broussard bobbled the ball and couldn’t get the out at second, but Lee forgot to cover first base and Morneau reached safely.
“As we’ve found out this year, any time you give up extra outs in this game, it gets you,” Gardenhire said. “It cost them dearly tonight.”
Hunter hit the next pitch—a hanging curve—410 feet to put the Twins ahead for good. Lee said he didn’t think the pitch was a mistake.
“I threw a first-pitch curve to him, trying to throw a strike, and got it up a little,” Lee said. “I didn’t even expect him to swing on a curve. Looking back, I would’ve thrown that one again, because I didn’t expect him to hit a curve.”
Hunter didn’t expect to see one, either.
“I wasn’t sitting on a curveball,” Hunter said. “It’s just that my hands said, ‘Yes!”’
Hunter’s career night helped the Twins win a rare one-sided game in this series. Ten of the first 11 games in the season series were decided by one or two runs, or went into extra innings.
Lee (6-3) went five innings, allowing four earned runs and nine hits. He walked two and struck out six in his first road loss of the year in six decisions.
“I was battling the whole time. I never had an easy inning,” Lee said. “I made it through a lot of innings, but that one with the grand slam really hurt me.”
It was Hunter’s first grand slam since July 2002. He last drove in six runs in an 11-inning game against Texas last Aug. 31. … Brent Abernathy was 1-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt in his season debut for the Twins. He was called up from Triple-A Rochester after Tuesday’s game.